US Open - The winners and losers
So another US Open is over. And after thrills, spills, rain and pain, I have selected my winners and losers from this year's dramatic tournament at Flushing Meadows.
First, the winners...
What is there left to say? When Manchester United won the Premier League last season, only suffering a handful of defeats along the way, they only played their main rivals twice. As far as Djokovic, the new US Open men's singles champion, is concerned, he has played Rafael Nadal six times and Roger Federer five times this year. In 2011, the Serbian is 10-1 against two of the greatest players of all time. That's 64 wins and only two defeats over the season so far. Phenomenal.
Djokovic's backhand is one of the greatest shots seen in the modern era. His athleticism is immense, reaching balls on the stretch on the slide and somehow getting them to within an inch of the baseline. Sixty-four wins, did you say? Two defeats? How is any of this possible in the modern game? I don't, but 'Nole' knows.
Djokovic reaches for another ball in the final against Nadal. Photo: Reuters
A triumph for perseverance, underdogs and the discarded. A triumph for Australia and, most of all, for attacking tennis. Two days after world number one Caroline Wozniacki hit zero winners in her first set against Serena Williams, Stosur came out firing against the same opponent with - eureka! - instant success. On her tournament debut on Arthur Ashe Stadium, having been dumped on Grandstand for her semi-final, Stosur showed poise, nerve and heart. She rose above the tawdry goings on in the second set when Williams began her very public altercation with the umpire and finished off her opponent with style. She mixed with fans and reporters as she celebrated her US Open success into the early hours in a Manhattan bar. #wouldntgetthatwithwilliams
Almost an entire fortnight separated Heather Watson's magnificent challenge to Maria Sharapova in the first round of the women's singles and Oliver Golding's victory in the boys' singles. Watson is making the transition into the senior ranks seamlessly, with classy tennis and a smile. Golding showed impressive nerve under pressure, some big serves and even bigger forehands. Watson, Golding, Laura Robson and the other Brits who made the boys' semi-finals - George Morgan and Kyle Edmund - hopefully have bright futures if they remember Djokovic didn't get where he is on talent alone.
Several leading umpires were absent from Flushing Meadows this year in a dispute over pay and overtime. But, represented by Eva Asderaki and Carlos Ramos, the profession proved its worth over finals weekend. Criticised in some quarters for his timing, Ramos quite rightly called first Nadal and then Djokovic for pushing time limits. Asderaki was bold, too, standing up to Williams to award a point penalty for hindrance and then a code violation for abusive language. Asderaki sat there, for her $250 (£157), making correct calls and getting abused for it. Then she hears tournament officials have fined Williams £2,000 (£1263) as punishment. The umpires should not stand for this effective insult of their authority. The US Open might be lucky to have any officials at all next year.
James Van Alen
Who? The man who invented the tie-break in 1965, of course. They still insist on tie-breaks to decide final sets here - and that is a bad thing. But this year we were treated to a handful of spectacular shoot-outs: Maria Kirilenko's 17-15 second-set breaker with Stosur, a women's Grand Slam record; Federer's 9-7 with Djokovic in the opening set of the semi-final; and, most memorably, Djokovic's amazing 16-14 pinch of a first set against the unfortunate Alex Dolgopolov. What a spectacular invention.
And the losers...
United States Tennis Association
Serena Williams let herself down again with her outburst in the final and her refusal to apologise or express regret for her rant at Asderaki. But the biggest loser of all is the USTA, whose refusal to throw the book at its star player summed up its incompetence during this event. Panic decisions, knee-jerk reactions. During the rain chaos of the second week, we were only ever a moment away from the latest embarrassment.
The worst moments? Somebody bringing gaffer tape onto the leaky Armstrong Court thinking it would solve everything. The drastically inaccurate weather forecast responsible for 15 minutes play on slippy courts. The sight of referee Brian Earley dragging a towel with his foot in an attempt to dry a court and then mumbling into his mobile phone as Andy Roddick marched the ball boys and line judges off to Court 13.
Officials attempt to make the playing surface safe. Photo: Reuters
Nobody seemed willing to take common sense decisions and yet nobody seems to be accountable. So time to act. The idea of spreading round one over three days has to be ditched. Back-to-back semi-finals and finals do not work. And any chance of a roof? Ah, the roof. The USTA has well-advanced plans to redevelop Flushing Meadows, including a retractable roof or two. And yet, publicly, it says this is not the case. Bizarre. The US Open is so worried about the politics that it refuses to acknowledge how much value a redevelopment would bring to the city and the nation. It is time to act and it is time for common sense here at the fourth of the four Grand Slams.